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      Curtains to open on 'The Laramie Project' Thursday

      After all the controversy and opinions surrounding the production of "The Laramie Project" in Ottumwa, the show is finally set to open its curtains on Thursday.

      Issues arose in July when the Ottumwa School District would not allow for the play to be performed at Ottumwa High School. In August, independent theater company Theater Adventures picked up the project and after months of rehearsing, will perform the play at the Bridge View Center this weekend.

      The cast of 30-some actors range in age from high school to the "more experienced" and director Dale Dommer said everyone involved in the production can't quite put what happened with the school district behind them, since the decision still has impact on the show on a daily basis. For one, it has put a strain on the budget and tickets were not able to be sold by the conventional method.

      However, the focus is still on the message of "The Laramie Project" and the tremendous support the Ottumwa community has shown for the production.

      "The show has a great message and the show is really about -- it uses the medium of Matthew Shepard and his story, just like the diary of Anne Frank would use," Dommer said. "So whether it's Anne Frank or Matthew Shepard, the message is still the same and it's about bullying and about how this is wrong and how hatred is an awful thing."

      The production this weekend has a special meaning for all those involved; as its closing show on Saturday will mark 15 years to the day that Matthew died. After the show's opening night on Thursday, Susan Burk from the Matthew Shepard Foundation will be available for a talk-back with the audience.

      Dommer said they are also hoping to offer a reduced rate to students for the matinee show on Saturday.

      "The Laramie Project" runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Bridge View Center, and an additional matinee show at 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $20 for reserved seats and groups of ten can purchase tickets for $10 each.